I've worked in the financial and technology industry, both very male dominated fields for over 20 years where women were once few and far between. There were very little women in leadership roles and especially not anyone that looked like me. Fast forward 20 years and there are many women at the helm of some our country’s biggest companies.
Through my school years I recall all the teachers that saw potential in me and mentored me through my studies. They always helped me make it in honors classes and had experiences outside of school like plays and shows in NYC. Women were always leading me to be great. I knew very early on I wanted a career in Business after discovering Nursing was not for me. I would either work for one of those big companies on Wall Street or own my own business. In High School, I entered programs that would allow me to get experience in the corporate world. My first job was in the clerical office of the New York City Morgue, yup you read that write but I didn’t see anything that would scare me for life, I files papers all day. Years later I would work at major companies Fortune 500 companies before I even got to college. During college, I found that I wanted to be where the action was, I needed to get back to work and this time full-time.
I re-entered corporate America after not finishing my degree (to finish it years later), again working for Fortune 500 companies and a couple of smaller midsize companies where I would be one in three women in any given department of 20. And if there was a woman in a leadership role she would always take me on as a mentoring project. As the job market grew more women were entering my field. The more women I would see entering the field the more I got excited. Oh nice, someone that looks like me is here, I will have a friend. So what you do, you immediately pair up and become work friends. I would teach my new friend all about the company and the job and soon I was the mentor.
The shift happened once companies recognized that they had to begin promoting more women to mid and senior level positions. And so the competition began. As jobs became available for us women to apply for there was no more friendships. It was like the bosses, usually men, would put you up against each other, I was fully confident in my skills, knowledge and ability to get the job done do I wasn’t worried. I've worked with women and particularly minority women that felt in order for them to be successful its kill or be killed; this feeling is usually rooted in a lack of confidence. Sometimes I was naive, I thought if I've showed the powers that be what I'm capable of (confidence and attitude), if I've supported my team (kindness) and I had the most knowledge (excellence) they will automatically give you the promotion, which I will say happened sometime just not all the time. A few times there was someone there trying to take me down, so they can rise.
I would stand back, and watch women begin to fight and lie to discredit one another so that they get ahead. It has happened to me. One coworker was promoted to manager, rightfully so; she finally got a leadership role, the first sister in forever at this company to get a lead role. So, I put my whole self into supporting her. Mentoring the junior team members so that our team stats always looked good knowing that this would be a reflection of our boss, my sister. I just knew for sure when there was an opportunity for her to be promoted she will Rise and bring me up behind her. Nope. The more my team shined the less she gave me credit and the more she saw me as a threat. I was amazed at the lies should would tell her superior just so that they didn’t see me as a favorable candidate come promotion time. I didn’t understand she and I talked about my role on the team and how together we are going to be the greatest. Instead of fight back and make stories up about her I left the department and eventually left the company.
I went to an even larger company where a friend insisted I join her because women were given leaderships roles and they even have a women’s empowerment group within the company, all the things she knew I stood for. She was my boss, she and I made a plan and a pact. She had her sights on senior upper level management and since I was new to the company I settled for mid-level management. I supported her in her role as manager and did a great job at representing our department in cross department meetings and with my vast knowledge of our businesses subject. I did my part, I gave her credit each time our team was rewarded for a job well done. But it wasn’t long until I begin to face the same issues with her perceiving me as a threat, this time with a so-called friend. The difference this time was I stood my ground and defended myself. Eventually she left the department and at some point, I finally got the promotion that I deserved but it wasn't without a fight. Soon after I made the choice to leave the company.
These experiences hurt me so much, but it never broke me to the point that I didn't continue being a mentor and support for others. I believe that these women were acting without fully knowing and loving themselves. Before we can truly walk with confidence we need to know ourselves fully. This is why I started my company Women on the Rise NY, Inc. to lend my talents to women that needed someone to support them while they are rising. A way to celebrate women that are working hard building a business and those still in working a full-time job honestly. I look back on all the great mentors I’ve had, and I wanted women to stop hurting each other and to begin to love themselves and one another.